Last week, SportsNet ran a piece summarizing the teams that exceeded the 2016 MLB Luxury Tax threshold. The list includes six organizations, three from the American League: the Yankees, Red Sox, and Tigers; and three from the National League: the Dodgers, Giants, and Cubs. As is the case with most luxury tax offenders, each of these teams has at least one ill-advised contract on their books, and some teams have multiple. As a result, I thought I would have a little fun and create a 2016 All-Luxury Tax Team; a team of the most expensive players who provided the least value to their ball clubs in 2016. First though, lets give some background on who our big-spenders were this year (as well as some fun nicknames!).
LOS ANGELES DODGERS aka “The Yankees of the West”
- Tax Amount: $31.8 million (4th Consecutive offense)
NEW YORK YANKEES aka “The New York Yankees”
- Tax Amount: $27.4 million (14th Consecutive offense)
BOSTON RED SOX aka “We have a GM named Dave”
- Tax Amount: $4.5 million (2nd Consecutive offense)
DETROIT TIGERS aka “We used to have a GM named Dave”
- Tax Amount: $4 million (First offense)
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS aka “But it was an Even Year!”
- Tax Amount: $3.4 million (2nd Consecutive offense)
CHICAGO CUBS aka “Young, Wild and Free”
- Tax Amount: $2.96 million (First offense)
It’s not all that surprising to see any of the above teams make this list, as all play in big markets and have, aggressive Executives and/or General Managers. Now for the formation of the All-Luxury Tax Team, here are the rules: a roster must consist of 25 players, and those players must be the most expensive and of the lowest possible value to the paying ball club. This includes players released under contract as well as players who were traded but are still being paid by their former team. It can even include players who have since retired.
THE MLB ALL-LUXURY TAX TEAM (Team Payroll: $263.8 million , Team WAR: -3.1 )
Montero is who he is; nothing exciting, but not incredibly awful either. Despite what WAR may say, I wouldn’t be too upset about paying $14 million a catcher like him. Ryan Hanigan though, a -0.5 WAR in just 113 PA (35 games)! You have to play pretty poorly to accumulate that much negative WAR in such a small sample size. On an unrelated note, Hanigan’s batting line in 2016 was .171/.221/.230…
Starting Infield (5)
The Yankees rule this list, as they watch a combined $47.3 million go to the trio of A-Rod, Texeira, and Ackley. Ackley’s poor 28-game stint in 2016 is palatable at just over three million dollars, but a combined -2.3 wins at the 1B/DH positions is downright excruciating. In fairness to the Bronx Bombers however, both Rodriguez and Texeira signed their contracts in the years leading up to a 2009 Yankee World Series Championship, though that victory feeling has likely cooled off in the seven seasons since then. Arruebarrena is the first mention in a group of Dodger’s international signings who makes the list, and Pablo Sandoval is the unsurprising run-away with the third-base job after a season lost to injury in which he still managed to put up a negative WAR in his seven plate appearances.
Starting Outfield (3)
Some, including myself, blame the Rusney Castillo failure on Boston’s failure to give him regular at-bats for long enough in the Majors to adjust to pitching at the highest level. Regardless, nobody wants to pay over $11 million for an outfielder who was taken off of the 40-man roster after just eight plate appearances in 2016. Then again, nobody wants to pay $9 million for an even older and less athletic outfielder in Allen Craig. Those two moves make up 2/3 of this outfield though, and really shines a light on some of the more notable failures on behalf of the former Red Sox front office. Ethier likely would not have made this starting outfield had he been healthy for any reasonable part of the season, but since he was DL bound for most of the year, his $18 million salary gets tacked on here as well. Luckily, Ethier has some experience in center field, so he should provide depth in case Castillo ever needs a day off (cause this team is real now, you know).
Bench (4 + Hanigan)
You heard it here first folks, Manny Ramirez is still being paid deferred money from a contract that he signed over a decade ago with the Red Sox. Sure it’s only two million dollars, chump change in today’s MLB, but it is still money being allocated to a player who is currently tied up in another organization as a coach. The remaining infield/outfield depth is filled by a pair of Cubans, Alex Guerrero and Hector Olivera, each of whom are still being paid by the Dodgers despite no longer being members of their organization. Lastly, you have Prince Fielder rounding out the bench as a pinch-hitter. Fielder is still being paid an annual salary by the Tigers, despite having been traded to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler and subsequently being forced to retire in August as the result of a neck injury.
The most stunning piece of this entire exercise was, in my opinion, the inability to push the starting rotation (or the bullpen for that matter), into negative WAR territory. Many of the contracts listed above are albatrosses thanks to the players that they are attached to, but at least guys like Anibal Sanchez and Clay Buchholz were able to provide their teams with innings. The big hit here is the $12.5 million still owed to Edwin Jackson by the Cubs, something that I am sure fans have forgotten about after becoming World Series Champions. In other news, lefties Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brett Anderson were just a couple of the many Dodgers pitchers who were injured for a large portion of 2016, something that I am sure the front office will be aware of moving forward to 2017.
RHP Matt Cain ($20.8m, 0.5 WAR), RHP Jake Peavy ($15m, 0.9 WAR), LHP J.P. Howell ($6.25m, 0.3 WAR), LHP Javier Lopez ($5m, 0.3 WAR), RHP Joel Peralta ($2.5m, -0.4 WAR), RHP Brandon Beachy ($1.75m, 0.0 WAR)
Before proceeding any further, I would like to thank the San Francisco Giants for moving Matt Cain and Jake Peavy to the bullpen towards the end of the 2016 regular-season, providing me with $35.8 million in bullpen assets. It really is unfortunate to see a pitcher like Cain go from stud to dud over the course of a few injury-plagued seasons, but at least he got a big pay day before it all went south, thanks to a $127.5 million contract extension signed back in 2013. Another Giant, Javier Lopez, makes the pen as a lefty specialist after a down 2016 where he pitched on a not-so-down salary. The other half of the bullpen comes straight out of L.A., as the Dodgers have a trio of under-performers and injury risks in lefty J.P. Howell as well as righties Joel Peralta and Brandon Beachy. But, on the bright side, this bullpen does have some nice 2017 bounce-back candidates!
So there you have it, the 2016 All-Luxury Tax team, made up of your favorite players from this years heavy spenders. Here is a nice take-away comparison for you. The team with the lowest WAR total in 2016 was the Milwaukee Brewers at 19.4. The team with the worst overall record was the Minnesota Twins (59-103), carrying a WAR total of 28.4. And the team with the lowest payroll, the Tampa Bay Rays, had a WAR total of 34.6. This team, which has been put together by pulling from the scrap heaps of 2016 luxury tax threshold teams’ rosters, has a cumulative WAR of -3.1 and a 25-man roster payroll of $263.8 million. That would be significantly beyond the 2017 luxury tax threshold of $195 million as well, in case you were wondering.